Crewe stand up to their seniors

FA CUP THIRD ROUND: Perry salvages Wimbledon's cause while Notts County rise above their station to earn a replay Crewe Alexandra 1 Wimbledon 1
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Manchester United must wait until next Tuesday to learn the identity of their fourth-round opponents. The prospect of a pounds 200,000 jackpot from a visit to the holders proved a powerful incentive last night for Crewe, who made light of a 48-place disparity in League positions by scoring first through Ashley Westwood. Chris Perry earned a replay for Wimbledon.

The goal with which Crewe stunned Wimbledon after only 12 minutes was replete with irony. Their manager, Dario Gradi, had expressed concern about the Premiership side's power in the air at set-pieces. It was just such a free-kick, floated in by Shaun Smith, that Neil Sullivan spilled under a challenge from Steve Macauley.

The other home centre-back, Westwood, hooked in the loose ball for his first goal of the season. Given that Westwood came to Crewe 18 months ago from Old Trafford for a tribunal-set fee of pounds 60,000 - which did not amuse Alex Ferguson - it seemed for a while that it might prove to be one of those goals in which the FA Cup specialises.

Wimbledon were briefly flustered and should have fallen further behind within five minutes. Dele Adebola, whose robust style would not be out of place in Joe Kinnear's team, rode a scything challenge by Perry on the left of the penalty area. The angle was unfavourable, but Adebola looked up to find Colin Little unmarked 12 yards out. Unfortunately for the former Hyde striker, he miscued badly and Sullivan fielded Smith's follow-up shot.

It was to prove a significant aberration. Midway through the first half, after Crewe only half-cleared a corner from the left, Kenny Cunningham returned the ball low from the opposite flank. Perry, another central defender previously without a goal all season, swept in the equaliser from six yards.

Despite the absence of their joint top scorer, the injured Marcus Gayle, Wimbledon began to pose the greater attacking threat. When Oyvind Leonhardsen cut the ball back from the by-line, Efan Ekoku stabbed at the ball without making the desired connection. Ekoku then tested Jason Kearton from 25 yards but found the goalkeeper equal to the shot.

Crewe, though, were determined not to go quietly. Wimbledon were never able to create the momentum which had taken them through a run of only one defeat in 23 games, and indeed could well have fallen behind again in the 62nd minute. Danny Murphy sent Phil Charnock sprinting through the middle, whereupon the newcomer from Liverpool prodded the ball straight at Sullivan.

The match had been billed as a clash of footballing philosophies, with Gradi's prodigies pitting his purist principles against the muscular directness of the club who gave him his break in management.

In fact, the teams tended to cancel each other out, although Crewe had a lucky escape when the woodwork spared Charnock the indignity of a last- minute own goal as he tried to clear from Ekoku.

Crewe Alexandra (4-3-1-2): Kearton; Lightfoot, Westwood, Macauley, Smith; Savage, Charnock, Whalley; Murphy; Little, Adebola. Substitutes not used: Billing, Garvey, Tierney.

Wimbledon (4 4 2): Sullivan; Cunningham, Perry, McAllister, Kimble; Ardley, Jones, Earle, Leonhardsen; Clarke (Goodman, 68), Ekoku. Substitutes not used: Reeves, Harford.

Referee: P Danson (Leicester).

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